Monday, July 4, 2022

Military veteran, local author talks new book, life and story inspirations

Dawn Brotherton is a mother, retired Air Force colonel, quilter, and award-winning local author. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Dawn Brotherton)

WILLIAMSBURG — From cozy mysteries, to girls’ sports stories, to tales about dragons, Dawn Brotherton has written it all.  

A retired Air Force colonel, softball coach, and Girl Scout leader, Dawn draws inspiration from her own life experiences in order to write her books. 

Her past encounters with a stalker is what drove her to write her first book, “The Obsession.”

During her first duty assignment in the Air Force in the early 1990s, Dawn dealt with a stalker who broke into her house and would mess with her phones. 

“My friends would say, ‘That’s such a good story, you should write that down,” Dawn said. “So I did write it down, and it wasn’t all that great, because real life never is. So I ended up killing off a few people in my story and that turned into my first book.”

“The Obsession” began Dawn’s series of mystery novels about Air Force Major Jackie Austin. Dawn was also one of the first female missile launch officers in the Air Force, which she draws inspiration from for her Jackie Austin Mysteries.  

Since her first book was published in 2010, Dawn said that people have requested more Jackie stories. Currently working on her third book of the series, she said that writing stories based on an incident in her life can be healing. 

“It’s very cathartic,” she said. 

With 10 published books and three more in the pipeline, Dawn does not have a problem with writer’s block. 

“My problem is not having enough time to get all the books out,” she said. “I ruminate on stories for a really long time before I actually get pen to paper.”

Dawn served in the Air Force for 28 years before retiring in 2016. At that point, she worked at the Pentagon as a Congressional Liaison. 

Now retired, she continues writing and running her own publishing company, Blue Dragon Publishing, which she started in 2010 when she published her first book.

When I wrote my first story, I saw how hard it was to pitch it to publishing companies,” she said. “Then it started growing and I ended up with 30-some writers.”

The name Blue Dragon comes from her love of dragons and fantasy novels. 

Two of her upcoming books are about dragons, including a kids’ picture book about a character named Scout the Dragon called “If I Look Like You.”

She is also publishing a young adult fantasy book about dragons.

“I love fantasy, it’s my favorite to read,” she said. “But I always felt like I couldn’t do it justice.” 

When her youngest daughter came to her with a poem and a few opening sequences to a book about a dragon book, Dawn was inspired and began writing. 

A mother of two, Dawn has drawn much inspiration for her books from her daughters. 

Her oldest daughter was the influence for her “Lady Tigers” series, which is the first in her series about third grade girls’ softball, written specifically for young girls who enjoy athletics

Her daughters, now 19 and 21, both played softball. When her older daughter came to her with an idea for a story about a young, deaf girl who plays softball but can’t hear the crowd cheering for her, Dawn knew it could be a mother-daughter project.  

“We planned out a 10-book series, and we had an outline with topics and what issues we were going to address. And then she went into high school and didn’t want to have anything to do with me anymore,” she joked. 

But Dawn continued writing what has now become a five-book series about the Lady Tigers, which not only focuses on girls’ fastpitch softball, but tells the stories of friendship and self-esteem while encouraging female athletes to follow their dreams. 

The fourth book in the series was written by her younger daughter.

Along with writing and publishing, Dawn also teaches classes, and gives talks on self-publishing.

She said that her best advice for writers looking for an agent or someone to pitch stories to is to join local writers’ organizations, such as Hampton Roads Writers or Chesapeake Bay Writers, to make connections. 

Her nonfiction book, “The Road to Publishing,” explores the pros and cons to both traditional publishing and self-publishing, winning a bronze medal in 2020 from the Military Writers Society of America

Along with children’s books and mystery novels, Dawn has also written in the romance genre and is now getting ready to publish her first-ever cozy mystery.

Often called “beach reads,” cozy mysteries are typically defined as stories centered around a female protagonist and amateur sleuth who solves a crime. 

Her upcoming cozy mystery, “Eastover Treasures,” will release June 22 and was inspired by Dawn’s love for quilting. The story centers around a group of women on a quilting retreat who get stuck in their manor house in a hurricane. After finding a diary left in the house, they discover clues that lead to a hidden treasure. 

For her release of “Eastover Treasures,” Dawn is doing a virtual book launch on Facebook Live , where she will do giveaways of quilt items. 

She will also hold a live launch at Yorktown Market Days on June 19 to give a sneak peak at her book.  

Despite her busy schedule, Dawn still takes her own time to write. 

“I’m a very energetic person. I schedule my time very carefully,” she said. “I do Blue Dragon Mondays through Thursdays and help other authors get their books out. Friday is ‘Dawn Time.’ Fridays are my writing days.”

Among her upcoming events for her new book release, Dawn is looking forward to her first book tour early next year, which she says is a “dual purpose” tour.

“One of my life goals is to hit all 50 states,” she said. “My book tour will go through all the Midwest states because I haven’t been there before.”

Her book tour will run from March through May, where she will hold book signings as she travels to each state. 

“I can write while I’m doing that, which is nice. So I hope to continue to write for a very long time,” she added.

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